A thunderous ovation greeted Bob McCreary and Ben Sutton as they entered the football team meeting in Decker Auditorium on a cold and rainy January afternoon. This day was special for Wake Forest Athletics in that it signified the beginning of a new era — an era in which dated and ineffective facilities would no longer handicap our coaches and student-athletes. This day was the day that Wake Forest football would first step foot in the newly constructed McCreary Field House, a $21 million facility that will allow all Wake Forest athletic programs to train yearround on its 120-yard artificial turf field.
In addition, McCreary Field House is now the temporary home to the Wake Forest football weight room, which now includes brand new, state of-the-art equipment to allow our team to train and prepare to its full potential. Once completed, the new Sports Performance Center will become the permanent home of the Wake Forest football weight room, and McCreary Field House will remain a much-needed place to practice and train year-round, regardless of weather.
The emotional outpouring of thanks to Bob and Ben from the student-athletes and coaches during that team meeting seemed to go on forever; it was evident that everyone involved knew that a new era of Wake Forest football was beginning that day.
Upon the conclusion of the meeting, it was time for Bob and Ben to lead everyone to the first walk-through of McCreary Field House. The cold and rainy January afternoon was a perfect reminder as to why such a facility was so badly needed for Wake Forest. As the team and coaches entered the sprawling facility, their jaws dropped in amazement, closely followed by ear-to-ear smiles and cheering. The energy and excitement was uncontainable.
As the team took a knee on the 50-yard line, Bob began a heartfelt address. He spoke of his commitment and dedication to Wake Forest Athletics and expressed that he felt that his gift was paid back many times over just by seeing the pure joy and excitement of the team that afternoon.
Ben followed Bob in his address of the team, expressing that Wake Forest can and will reach the pinnacle of college football and that the facility improvements now completed as well as those still in progress are a critical step toward the ultimate goal of a Wake Forest football National Championship.
It was then time for members of the team to begin their first lift in the new weight room occupying the end zone of McCreary Field House. All of the equipment gleamed black and gold and sported “Wake Forest Football” proudly on it; this is the first time Wake Forest has ever had a weight room dedicated solely to football. Excitement was still abuzz as Brandon Hourigan, head strength and conditioning coach, began shouting instructions for the lift.
As workouts ensued, many other coaches and administrators toured through the facility. Tony da Luz, head coach of women’s soccer, even walked a top-level recruit through the facility, eager and excited to show off a facility that will undoubtedly be used by many of our other sports.
I am still amazed that this 120-yard indoor facility is nestled right on campus, only a short walk from Manchester Athletic Center. I am even more amazed and excited that this facility is only the beginning for Wake Forest Athletics; the ground for the next game-changer, the Sports Performance Center, sits ready.
The 95,000-square-foot Sports Performance Center will create a permanent strength and conditioning area for all sports, nutrition space, coaches’ offices and other team spaces. Thanks to the generosity of many, we are within striking distance of our goal to break ground by June 2016. With $8 million still needed by our deadline of March 2016, we are truly in the home stretch of funding for this project. There is still time to make a difference for Wake Forest Athletics by participating in the McCreary-Sutton match where any gift to the Sports Performance Center by March 2016 will be matched, dollar for dollar, by Bob and Ben. This generous match has catapulted our fundraising efforts to make this $58 million project a reality solely with donor support. To those who have already given to the Sports Performance Center, I can’t thank you enough for investing in the future of Wake Forest Athletics.
(Note: This article was originally published in the February/March 2016 issue of Gold Rush.)